Four days after Republican Gov. Rick Scott suggested lawmakers should be prohibited from working for law firms that lobby the Legislature, Florida Senate President Joe Negron says he is "stepping away" from the law firm he works for.
The Stuart Republican announced his resignation in a statement today -- provided by his Senate office -- saying he was leaving Gunster Law Firm out of an "abundance of caution, to avoid even the possible appearance of" a conflict of interest.
Negron joined the prominent, statewide law firm as an income shareholder six and a half years ago, working in the firm's West Palm Beach and Stuart offices and focusing his practice on business litigation and environmental and land use cases.
“For the first time, I have reached a crossroads where my firmly held conviction to promote legislation that would benefit my constituents, community, and state has the potential to result in a possible perception of a conflict with my professional employment," Negron said.
He was not immediately available for additional comment.
Negron made $225,952 from Gunster in 2015, according to his most recent financial disclosure filed over the summer. His Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Negron, as an income shareholder, "does not have equity in the firm."
Here is Negron's full statement:
“The notion of a citizen legislature – people from all walks of life, business, and industry combining their experience and perspectives to form a government of, by, and for the people – has been a guiding principle of our country since its inception.
“Florida’s part-time legislature, where elected officials, bound by term limits, live and work in the communities they serve, produces results for the people of this state that are far better than we could hope to see from full-time career politicians and bureaucrats.
“Throughout my legislative service, I have carefully scrutinized my legal and legislative work to ensure I fully uphold the highest ethical standards.
“For the first time, I have reached a crossroads where my firmly held conviction to promote legislation that would benefit my constituents, community, and state has the potential to result in a possible perception of a conflict with my professional employment. In the abundance of caution, to avoid even the possible appearance of such a difference, and to make certain I can continue to effectively advocate for my community, I have made the decision to step away from my position with the Gunster Law Firm.
“Practicing law at Gunster, a large statewide law firm, has been a tremendous opportunity to work with a very talented team of accomplished professionals. I will continue to practice law for the remainder of my time in the Senate and look forward to continuing to represent the citizens who elected me to serve in the Florida Senate.”
[Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times]